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United becomes first major airline to require COVID vaccine for all workers

United Airlines announced Friday it will require the COVID-19 vaccine for all of its employees.

United Airlines announced Friday it will require the COVID-19 vaccine for all of its employees.

United Airlines

United Airlines announced Friday in a letter to employees it will require all of its workers in the United States to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The announcement from airline executives comes as the delta variant is fueling a dramatic rise in cases throughout the U.S. Many other companies, including Google, Microsoft and Tyson Foods, are also requiring their employees to receive the vaccine.

“We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees. But, we have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety when you’re at work, and the facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated,” United CEO Scott Kirby and United President Brett Hart said in a memo to employees, ABC News reported.

United has 67,000 employees in the United States, according to the Associated Press. About 90% of its pilots and 80% of its flight attendants have already received the vaccine, the AP said.

The airline told its employees they have until late October to prove they have been vaccinated or else they will be fired, according to CNN. United is offering incentives for employees who are vaccinated by mid-September, CNN said.

Exceptions will be made for employees with religious or medical reasons to not get the vaccine, as long as they show documentation, the New York Times reported.

“Over the last 16 months, (Kirby) has sent dozens of condolences letters to the family members of United employees who have died from Covid-19. We’re determined to do everything we can to try to keep another United family from receiving that letter,” the notice to employees said, according to CNN. “Together we’ll do our our part to defeat this virus.”

United said it does not have plans to require the vaccine for its passengers, according to the AP.

United is the first airline to require the vaccine for its entire workforce, but Delta announced in May it would be requiring it for all new hires.

Mike Stunson covers real-time news for McClatchy. He is a 2011 Western Kentucky University graduate who has previously worked at the Paducah Sun and Madisonville Messenger as a sports reporter and the Lexington Herald-Leader as a breaking news reporter.
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